The In-between of Sufferings and Hope

“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

– Romans 5:3-5

Jesus told us, “In this world you will have trouble”.  That being said, within the same breath He also told us that we can “take heart” because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Thus, we can take two clear points away from this impartation.  One, despite our Christian faith, we are not excluded from experiential trouble.  Two, despite this fact, we need not be dismayed.  For Jesus as overcome this world in power, and in Him we gain an eternal perspective that renders trouble a temporary nuisance.  The Apostle Paul expresses this in Romans 8:18 when he says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  “Will be,” Paul says. He points to our glorious forthcoming eternal reality.

Back to the first point, however; earthly trouble is still an experience we will endure.  Certainly, we can “take heart” in Paul’s forecasted eternal victory, but this doesn’t change our here-and-now circumstances.  Our troubles are still present, and they are difficult to deal with.  So, what must we do when they come?   Continue reading “The In-between of Sufferings and Hope”

The Most Excellent Way

“And now these three remain: faith hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:13

Group night is here, each person has arrived, and the evening is now set.  A commencement time of fellowship, prayer, and worship has concluded, and now all attention has been given to you.  You connect your eyes with each person in the room, and take a deep breath.  As you exhale, your mind searches for the right words to begin the nights discussion and teaching.  As those words alighten your tongue, you proceed in influencing those who have entrusted themselves to you. Continue reading “The Most Excellent Way”

The Power of Face to Face Conversation

“I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead,

I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.”

– 2 John 1:12

Let’s face it, leaders love to talk.  Leaders have a lot on their mind, and as a result, a lot to say.  They want as many people as will listen to give them audience.  This, then, certainly lends to stage front mass communication; corporately sharing ideas, strategies, encouragements, and even admonishments.  And, as I wrote last week, there is a need for this.  There is a corporate word that the Church needs to receive from the leaders God has placed over her.

Likewise, within small group settings, there is a very similar need to communicate corporate words.  Though a small group setting is much smaller than that found within the walls of Sunday morning auditoriums and chapels, the need exists none-the-less.  When multiple people arrive to participate in small group activities, it is important that the leader be prepared to share a word that everyone can spiritually and intellectually digest.  They need to be able to leave having grasped something that God was speaking.

Throughout the ages of time, however, there has been one element of corporate gatherings that has always been true, and has been a challenge for leaders.  No matter how large or small, within a crowd of people there will always be found intellectual, faith, and spiritual maturity levels at every measuring point.  Some individuals will long to be handed the steak knife and a slew of hardy side dishes, while others will need to be spoon-feed with the basic tenants of the faith in thoroughly blended and measured doses.  Some will ask for seconds, while others need to allow their appetite to settle before attempting to return to the table.

Speaking a word that can be received and accepted by the integrated social capacity of a mass of people is nothing that should be attempted by the faint-of-heart.  It is a difficult job, and one that lends to the ever-important necessity that leaders engage also in face to face interactions.

One morning this week I had two said engagements.  I met with one individual over breakfast for a little over an hour.  When that conversation ended, I found myself full of joy and excitement about what was accomplished, for the both of us, through our conversation.  Thus, I sat happily sipping a cup of coffee awaited the arrival of my second engagement. With their arrival, I dived into another conversation, one that lasted another hour plus time frame, and which yielded great back and forth encouragement.  As I left our place of meeting, I sensed the goodness that had been accomplished as a result of the intentional face to face interaction that I shared with my colloquial companions.

As leaders, we must recognize that our conversation does not end when we walk away from the stage front.  If anything, it is from that point we cross the starting line of true leadership, teaching, and relational discipleship.  It is the one-on-one communal interaction we share with others that will truly make a difference in shaping lives and sharing Jesus.

When we can look directly in the eyes of another, with listening ears and truth speaking lips, something supernatural takes place.  When we are able to respond to input, answer questions, and discourse personal wrangling’s with spiritual discernment and emotional kid gloves, we enter into a place where the Holy Spirit can have His way.  In this place, we are sharing more than words, we are sharing our souls in tender rectitude; an interaction that unlocks the doors to dark rooms within the heart, and illuminates them with the light of Christ.

Over the course of this season of leadership, then, I encourage you to continue your ministry beyond the gathering of the masses, and enter into the intimacy of face-to-face interaction.  Tap into this powerful element of spiritual unity.  Meet with those you are building a discipling relationship with.  Learn their stories, hear their hearts, know their circumstances, and share with them the encouragements of your own experiences and spiritual life lessons.  In this way, as the Apostle John tells us in the opening scripture, we will make our joy complete.

Go Deeper – Grow Stronger

What Is God Saying Through Our Pastor?

“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy,                                         not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” – Hebrews 13:17

Every Sunday we join together to unify in worship, to build relationship, and to be encouraged in the Word of God by those the Father has set into place as a spiritual authority over His Church.  Though each of us, as believers in Christ, have the ability to know and communicate with the Lord directly, and to function in our own personal relationship with the Lord, scripture clearly teaches us the importance, and responsibility, of living in community (Psalm 133:1, Acts 4:32, 1 John 4:11) and, thus, submitting to appropriate human authority (Romans 13:1, Eph. 4:11-13).

One of the most influential and corporately unifying elements of a Pastor’s role is that of preaching and teaching from the pulpit.  From behind the pulpit, our leaders share what the Lord has placed in their hearts; passing along the anointing that has been placed upon them.  Our leaders spend hours each week praying and studying – seeking God for the basic purpose of obediently displaying through verbal communication, that which the Lord is wanting to communicate to His people.

However, as members and leaders of the Church ourselves, how often do we reflect upon these pulpit-spoken words, considering their meaning, and practicing their practical encouragements?  Moreover, how often do we repeat them to those whom God has placed under our authority?  Are we helping our followers understand the corporate Word of the Lord? Continue reading “What Is God Saying Through Our Pastor?”

Your Journey

“The priest answered them, ‘Go in peace.  Your journey has the LORD’s approval.’” – Judges 18:6

Your journey is your journey.  It belongs to no other.  It is yours alone.  It is unique to you.  Though some may share in your journey with you, experiencing the same peaks and valleys, the same curves and long straight junctures, and the same sorrows and celebrations along the way, you maintain a subjective autonomy that no one else can touch.  It is your vantage point, your sensory intake, and your emotional filtering of it all that will make it completely inimitable to you as an individual.  No other can experience it quite like you do.  It is your journey.

I am not suggesting a post-modern ideology, one that would suggest that there is no truth accept that which we believe to be true.  I am simply stating that what we experience through our senses and through our spirit, cannot be mirrored with exactitude in another person.  We are all made uniquely in the image of God.  Like snowflakes or fingerprints, there are no two humans exactly alike, and the way we experience life is completely unique to us.  There may be similarities between people, between what we are sensing, or in the way we observe an occurrence, but at the end of the day, no person experienced a specific moment exactly the way another individual did.  No one else was standing exactly where another was standing.  No one else had the sensory composition that another had.  No two-people processed the incoming information with the exact life history biases, synaptic computations, or spiritual faith. Continue reading “Your Journey”